How to Make a Savory Italian-Style Spinach Flan (Sformato)

Ring-Shaped Spinach Sformato, With a Stew in the Center
The Spruce / Kyle Phillips
  • 01 of 09

    What Is a "Sformato"?

    Making a Spinach Sformato: the Spinach
    The Spruce / Kyle Phillips

    A sformato is similar to a savory flan or a firmer, less-airy and less-fussy soufflé. It's an elegant dish often found on upscale Italian restaurant menus. Alessio Pesucci, the chef at the Locanda Del Gallo in Tuscany, demonstrated how to make them.

    "I'm really illustrating a procedure, more than a recipe," he said, noting that while he used spinach, he could just as easily have used the same volume of cooked cauliflower, broccoli, wild mushrooms (porcini are heavenly), or even rice, and that while ricotta is a requirement, he could easily have used a different cheese instead of Parmigiano, for example, Fontina, Pecorino Romano, or even mild Gorgonzola. What's important is that the flavors of the various ingredients go together.

    The other thing to note is that while Alessio made individual sformati about the size of a muffin, one could also make a single larger sformato, or even pour the sformato batter into a ring mold, at which point one will obtain a ring-shaped sformato that's a beautiful (and elegant) container for another dish, such as a stew. Sformato di riso, rice sformato, is especially well-suited for this role.

    [Edited by Danette St. Onge]

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  • 02 of 09

    The Molds, Buttered and Breadcrumbed

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Breadcrumb the Molds
    The Spruce / Kyle Phillips

    To make 10 muffin-sized sformati, or fill a 10-inch (25 cm) ring mold, you'll need:

    • 1 1/8 pounds/500 g. fresh spinach
    • 1 1/8 pounds/500 g. ricotta (well-drained)
    • 4 large eggs
    • 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • A healthy pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    • Salt and pepper (to taste)
    • The molds
    • 1/4 cup butter with which to butter the molds
    • 1 cup breadcrumbs with which to coat the buttered molds

    Begin by washing the spinach well. Put it in a pot with just the water that is on the leaves, a pinch of salt, and cook it until it is wilted about 3 minutes. Do not overcook it, or it will begin to fall apart, and this is detrimental to the texture of the sformato. When it is done, let it cool in a strainer so excess water can drain.

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  • 03 of 09

    Start Mixing the Ingredients

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Combine Spinach and Ricotta
    The Spruce / Kyle Phillips

    Coarsely chop the spinach and put it in a large bowl. Add the ricotta.

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  • 04 of 09

    Grate the Nutmeg

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Add a Little Nutmeg
    The Spruce / Kyle Phillips

    Sprinkle the Parmigiano over the spinach, and then add a healthy pinch of freshly grated nutmeg―it's worth the effort and expense of finding whole nutmegs and grating them because ground nutmeg of the sort that's sold in a jar fades quickly. Mix well, and check seasoning.

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  • 05 of 09

    Add the Eggs

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Add Eggs
    The Spruce / Kyle Phillips

    Add the eggs and mix well.

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  • 06 of 09

    The Mixture Is Ready

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Mix Well
    The Spruce / Kyle Phillips

    At this point the mixture is ready. Refrigerate the mixture, covered, 15 to 20 minutes for muffin-sized sformati, and 40 to 45 for a single larger sformato. Since sformati are at their best when they're hot, and don't reheat well, don't cook them until just before serving time.

    When ready to cook them, preheat your oven to 360 F/180 C.

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  • 07 of 09

    Fill the Molds

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Fill Molds
    The Spruce / Kyle Phillips

    Butter the molds and coat their interiors with breadcrumbs, holding them upside down and tapping them to eliminate excess crumbs. Fill the molds with the batter; after filling each one rap the bottom firmly on your work surface to dislodge air bubbles. Continue until all the molds are filled.

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  • 08 of 09


    Making a Spinach Sformato: Baked!
    The Spruce / Kyle Phillips

    Bake smaller sformati for 15 to 20 minutes. A larger sformato will require longer, 40 to 45 minutes.

    When they are done, they will be firm, slightly risen, and begin to pull away from the sides of the molds.

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  • 09 of 09

    Unmold and Serve

    Making a Spinach Sformato: Enjoy!
    The Spruce / Kyle Phillips

    To unmold a small sformato, turn the sformato upside down and tap the mold sharply against the surface of the serving plate. It will come free.

    To unmold a larger sformato, cover the mold with a plate and invert the two. Then tap the mold with a fork to dislodge the sformato.